By Angelos Anastasiou
A SOMEWHAT ridiculous legal impasse regarding the promotion of senior police officers was the object of heated debate at the House Legal Affairs committee yesterday, which resulted in the departure of police union reps in protest of offensive remarks, and the postponement of the session for next week.
Specifically, the committee was scheduled to discuss an amendment to the process of promoting senior police officers to assistant chief of police – of whom the police force’s organisational chart includes four.
The need for an amendment arose when the police were left with one assistant chief, which meant the law-prescribed “assessment committee” that should convene to fill the vacancies found itself unable to do so.
That is because, by law, the assessment committee comprises the deputy chief of police, along with two assistant chiefs. But, as of 2013, there is only one assistant chief available, and a legal deadlocak has been reached.
In the face of the need to break the impasse, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou proposed that, in case the assessment committee cannot convene, it should be chaired by the justice ministry’s permanent undersecretary, and the missing members replaced by permanent undersecretaries from other ministries.
This arrangement was deemed unacceptable by police unions, which argued that promotions within the police should be made by policemen.
“We want the deputy chief to chair the assessment committee at all times,” said Police Association chairman Andreas Symeou.
Symeou and Filippos Vrontos, head of the Association of Senior Police Officers, said they left the session in protest at being called “strawmen planted by political parties” by DISY deputy Rikkos Mappourides.
“During the session, the justice minister said he is under no obligation to inform the police unions for regulatory amendments,” Vrontos said. “If that is the case, one wonders why we even have police unions.”
Legal affairs committee chairman Soteris Sampson said the session was postponed for next week as no representative from the legal services was in attendance to advise on the legality of the proposed amendment, but denied any “improper expressions” had been spoken.
AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou accused the justice minister of attempting to control promotions at the police, claiming he had already done so in “other departments”.
“There are no legal obstacles to keeping the deputy police chief at the helm of the assessment committee,” said Damianou. “But in any case, ruling on the constitutionality of law are the prerogative of the Supreme Court, not the justice minister.”